Heroes and rascals, shipwrecks and lost gold: Strange but true stories and secrets of Oregon's wild past | Offbeat Oregon History The Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (now known as Osho -- yes, THAT Osho) as he appeared when he lived in Wasco County with his followers. That's also him in the white Rolls-Royce surrounded by followers, in a scene from Rajneeshpuram. (Four-part story starts with Column No. 73, May 9, 2010 While doing some cleaning-up around the Odd Fellows Hall in Scio, a local girl found a tiny coffin with this partial skeleton inside. Whose? We'll probably never know ... (Story No. 204, Oct. 14, 2012) The ever-elusive D.B. Cooper peeks into the page from behind his signature shades. The story of his skyjacking exploit starts with episode 237, from June 2, 2013. Meet Kitty Kat, the wealthiest feline in the state of Oregon and landlord to the City of Tangent. Kitty Kat, until he died at a ripe old age in 1995, owned City Hall. (Story No. 163, Jan. 8, 2012) This crazy-looking speedboat was the invention of Portland wizard Victor Strode. The city commissioned a harbor patrol boat based on his design, but it didn't work out. (Story No. 201, Sept. 23, 2012) The Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (now known as Osho -- yes, THAT Osho) as he appeared when he lived in Wasco County with his followers. That's also him in the white Rolls-Royce surrounded by followers, in a scene from Rajneeshpuram. (Four-part story starts with Column No. 73, May 9, 2010 This is the roof of the Franz Bread Rest Hut at Pixieland, the Oregon Coast's ill-starred answer to Disneyland, which opened in 1969 and went out of biz in 1974. The Rest Hut consisted of a giant fiberglass loaf of bread sticking out of the top of this giant fiberglass hollow log, the whole thing towering over a log-flume roller coaster ride. It's probably the most campily awesome example of the proud display of crass commercialism that was Pixieland. (Column No. 52 - Dec. 6, 2009)
2012 articles 2012 articles About Offbeat Oregon 2012 articles 2011 articles 2010 articles 2008-2009 articles About me Store (the Finn J.D. John Centre for Crass Commercialism and Filthy Lucre)
z

you just might ALSO
enjoy ...

A screen capture from an episode of ABC's legendary 1970s show "Happy Days." Because the show is set in 1950s Milwaukee, Wisc., "The Fonz" is actually breaking the law in this scene; pinball was outlawed in Milwaukee at the time.

The tawdriest love triangle in the history of the universe.

Lulu Reynolds was having a torrid affair with her music teacher. Her husband carried a .38 in his jacket pocket. It wasn't the kind of thing that ends well. It didn't.


A screen capture from an episode of ABC's legendary 1970s show "Happy Days." Because the show is set in 1950s Milwaukee, Wisc., "The Fonz" is actually breaking the law in this scene; pinball was outlawed in Milwaukee at the time.

Graft, corruption, racketeering, and ... uh, pinball?

Until just a few dozen years ago, pinball was illegal, and the mobbed-up characters who supplied the games played for keeps.


The front cover of the May 1946 issue of 44 Western Magazine shows a scene vaguely reminiscent of the downtown gunfight between feuding newspaper editors in 1871 Roseburg.

The Roseburg "newspaper war" that was settled with a gunfight

The owners of rival papers escalated their war of words when they went for pistols on a downtown street one morning in 1871.


An artist's sketch of what D.B. Cooper may have looked like, from an FBI bulletin sent out shortly after the skyjacking.

The legend of cool-cat skyjacker
D.B. Cooper:
What happened?

The man calling himself Dan Cooper parachuted into legend, and 40 years later the case remains unsolved ... but there are plenty of theories.


The front cover art of "For Men Only" Magazine showed a scene that bore some resemblance to the scene on the day Dave Tucker robbed the bank of which  he would, 32 years later, be named Vice-President.

The bank robber who became vice-president of the bank he robbed

After he got out of prison, Dave Tucker spent 30 years rebuilding his reputation in his hometown of Joseph, and it seems he succeeded.


A detail from the movie poster for the 1915 racist move 'Birth of a Nation,' which inspired and propelled the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan in the years just after the Great War.

The Rise and Fall of the House of Klux in Oregon

A slick marketing campaign and a taste for political power marked the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s, which spread through Oregon like a racist virus — and then collapsed.


This cover illustration from "Masked Rider Western," published in 1950, bears an uncanny resemblance to the events that kicked off Vigilante rule in Crook County.

"I can make a
six-shooter sing 'come to jesus'!"

Meet Robert Gordon Duncan, the pioneering Portland shock-jock who was the first person ever sent to prison for cursing on the air, in 1930.


This cover illustration from "Masked Rider Western," published in 1950, bears an uncanny resemblance to the events that kicked off Vigilante rule in Crook County.

When prineville was ruled by masked vigilante riders

In Crook County, the early 1880s were like a Louis L'Amour novel. And it all started with the lynching of an innocent man.


The classic melodrama villain, with sleek silk hat and waxed handlebar mustache, in the act of evicting the poor widow and children from their freshly foreclosed family homestead. Except for the mustache, Oregon's longest-serving 19th-century senator fit the trope with remarkable precision.

Senator John H. Mitchell: Oregon's own real-life Snidely Whiplash

He abandoned his family, changed his name, moved to Oregon, bilked widows and orphans in two big real-estate swindles ... and was promptly elected to Congress.


The skull of the skeleton found in the Odd Fellows hall in Scio, which is now at Oregon State University. The skeleton was that of a hard-working man who died sometime between 1860 and 1890.

Mysterious skeletons of Oregon: If these bones could talk ...

A long-dead dry-land homesteader ... a medical specimen in an Odd Fellows lodge ... what are their stories? We'll never know.


Oregon inventor Victor Strode’s revolutionary boat, the 'aerohydrocraft,' made the front cover of the March 1931 issue of Popular Science. The design didn't prove a useful one for the City of Portland, though, and the larger model the city commissioned to function as a harbor police boat didn't work out.

Buck Rogers-style police boat didn't work out for city of Portland

A local inventor developed the "aerohydrocraft" design in the early 1930s. But when the city built one as an ambulance boat, it flopped.


The remains of the barque Peter Iredale as they appear today, jutting out of the beach sands on Clatsop Spit at Warrenton as they have since 1906. In 1960, the wreck nearly was lost to a man who claimed he owned it.

How the Oregon Coast almost lost the Peter Iredale to a scrap-metal shark

An Oregon City man claimed he'd inherited the rights from his father, and demanded to be allowed to cut it up and haul it away. He almost got away with this little swindle.


Commander Dave Scott salutes the U.S. flag, which has just been planted on the surface of the moon. A small piece of Oregon lava rock, carried to the moon by Scott's fellow astronaut Jim Irwin, lies within this photo, next to one of the many bootprints. (Image: NASA)

There's a piece of lava from central oregon in this photo, on the moon.

It was left there by astronaut Jim Irwin at the request of a friend from Bend — who gave him a sliver of Oregon lava to leave on the moon's surface. And so he did.


The Motel 6 on Mission Street in Salem as it appeared in the mid-1970s, when Carl Cletus Bowles made his run from its back door. Don't laugh, at least not too loudly ... two innocent people would die before Bowles was back in prison.

During a conjugal visit at a cheap motel, the prisoner escaped

It had to be the most awkward prison-break scenario in the history of the universe. But it really did happen. Here's the story.


James Lappeus, former Portland Chief of Police. He eventually was fired over allegations that he'd offered to 'accidentally' leave the jailhouse door open for a convicted murderer if his wife paid a $1,000 bribe.

gambler, swindler, gunfighter, liquor man ... oh, and also police chief.

James Lappeus came to Portland to open a saloon and "theater." Despite his checkered past — or maybe because of it — he was named city marshal and, later, Chief of Police. Here's the story.


This postcard picture of Cannon Beach was created in 1966, which means just off to the left of the frame is a beach with a fence around it and "no trespassing" signs.

HOW OREGON ALMOST LOST PUBLIC ACCESS TO ITS BEACHES

A Portland real-estate guy found a loophole in the law and claimed a patch of beach for his own, and his friends in the state Legislature tried to keep it that way. Here's the story.


A color lithograph of George and Kate Ann Williams’s Victorian  mansion, located at 18th and Couch streets downtown.

This spooky-looking Portland mansion was home of a 'starvation cult'

A prominent Portland socialite led a sect called "Truth," with the motto "Pray and Be Cured," that required 40-day fasts. It vanished after its leader starved herself to death during a 110-day fast. Here's the story.


The archway monument leading up to the Wallowa County Courthouse,  built in 1936. The bronze plaque on the inside left of the arch includes  the name of murderer and horse thief Bruce “Blue” Evans.

A monument in honor of a horse thief and mass murderer?

Bruce "Blue" Evans led the gang that slaughtered over 30 innocent Chinese miners in 1887. So why is his name celebrated on a monument to Wallowa County Pioneers? . Here's the story.


Title screen from a Bugs Bunny cartoon. Mel Blanc, the legendary Looney Toons voice man, grew up in Portland.

The voice of Bugs Bunny went to high school in Portland

Legendary Hollywood voice man Mel Blanc's teachers weren't too impressed with his voice talents, but Oregon radio listeners and cartoon fans sure were. Here's the story.


The gravestone of Ame, who despite having died 10 years after the Civil War, was still considered a slave.

sHE DIED AROUND 1874. SO WHY DOES THE GRAVESTONE SAY SHE WAS A SLAVE?

Ame came over the Oregon Trail from Missouri. But when the North won the Civil War, her status as a slave didn't change. Here's what happened.


Ray V.B. Jackson in a booking photo from the Oregon State Pen, in 1896. Four years after this photo was taken, he was teaching grade school in Silver Lake.

Is this the face of oregon's first serial killer?

Like an "angel of death," ex-con Ray V.B. Jackson just happened to be at the scene of at least five Central Oregon homicides. What are the odds? Here's the story (in two parts).


Vaudeville's famous Klondike Kate became a Central Oregon legend

central oregon's most fabulous homesteader ever.

Homesteader Kitty "Klondike Kate" Rockwell, retired from the bright lights of Vaudeville, often wore full costume just to weed the garden. Here's the story.


Early Oregon 'holy roller' cult ended in murder, suicide, insanity

THE holy-roller "NAKED LADIES' CULT" IN CORVALLIS and waldport.

It started out as a church seeking perfect holiness and Godliness. It ended in murder, insanity and chaos — and, yes, rumors of naked ladies. Check out the full story (in two parts).


Florence's famous exploding whale: A highway engineer didn't know how much dynamite to use, so he guessed ... and guessed wrong.

Whale explodes: Details at 11.

The highway department guy didn't know how much dynamite to use, and said so on camera. But he still thinks the operation was a success. Check out the story of Florence's famous exploding whale ...


Offbeat Oregon History: Album cover art

Train robbery turned into
on-board gunfight with the law

These three desperados couldn't seem to catch a break. First they robbed the wrong train; then it turned out to contain a dangerously competent lawman behind a big six-shooter; and finally, someone stole their getaway car.

Train robber Albert Meadors as a younger man, several years before
he helped Charles Manning and Clarence Stoner rob Train 5.
(Image: Oregon State Archives)

It was early summer, 1914, and an Oregon & Washington Railway Navigation Co. passenger train was just passing over the summit of the Blue Mountains, between LaGrande and Pendleton. The crewmen were running the train slow, checking the brakes for the long downhill run ahead.

Meanwhile, three men at the back of the train were checking their guns.

A train robbery was about to go down — one of the very last Old West-style train robberies ever. And before it was over with, it would turn into one of the very last Old West-style six-shooter gunfights, too.

The robbers

Clarence Stoner didn’t much look like outlaw royalty. He had a mild, earnest, boyish face, and his relatives all considered him the last person they’d ever expect to become a train robber.

Clarence Stoner’s prison booking photo from 1914, when he was sent up
the river for helping rob the train. (Image: Oregon State Archives)

But he was a cousin of two of the West’s most notorious desperados, Hugh and Charles Whitney, and a member of Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch gang in his home state of Wyoming. He was now out in Oregon and running with a close friend of his cousins, a gambler named Charles Manning and an outlaw sheepman from Kentucky named Albert Meadors.

Planning the job

In late July, Manning got word that Train No. 5 on the O.W.R.N. line, Chicago to Portland, would be carrying a significant sum of cash in the express car. So he got together with Stoner and Meadors and proposed that they do the job.

As a place to do it, Manning picked a remote spot between Kamela and Meacham, at the summit of the Blue Mountains. At this remote place, Manning knew, the train would have to slow down and check its brakes. When it did, the three of them would be ready.

Clarence Stoner’s prison booking photo from 1914, when he was sent up
the river for helping rob the train. (Image: Oregon State Archives)

The outlaws bought a getaway car, a brown sedan of unknown make (although it was apparently not a Ford, since it wasn’t black).

Manning also obtained enough dynamite to breach the express car — he anticipated that the clerk would barricade the door as soon as he learned the train was being robbed, to protect the strongbox.

Finally, all was in readiness. The three desperados traveled to the Kamela station, bought tickets, boarded at the rear. The train rolled on westward, up the side of the mountain toward its date with destiny.

The robbery

As the train neared the summit of the pass, it slowed down, which was the outlaws’ signal. Out came the guns, and starting at the back of the train, they simply collected all the train crew members and marched them forward. Manning pulled the emergency stop, the engineer slammed on the brakes and there the train sat, poised a few dozen yards beyond the crest, at the start of a miles-long, winding 2.5-percent downhill grade — airbrakes locked on. (CONFIDENTIAL TO VINTAGE STEAM-TRAIN BUFFS: Yes. In about 20 minutes. Scary, no? More on that in a minute.)

Stoner went forward and collected the engineer and fireman. At gunpoint, he marched them back and locked them in the baggage car.

Sorry, wrong number

The first big shock of the day came moments later, when Manning approached the express car and demanded entry. To his surprise, the clerk let him come right in rather than barring the door and refusing. Once inside, he immediately learned why: There was no money inside. Because of a printer’s error on the timetables, the train was carrying the wrong number. He and his friends were robbing the wrong train.

Hoping to salvage something for their efforts, the robbers now turned their attention on the passenger cars. Leaving Stoner to guard the captured train crew, Manning and Meadors started going down the rows robbing each passenger in turn.

This turned out to be a bad plan. Because inside the passenger cabin, sitting in the back row, was Morrow County Deputy Sheriff George McDuffy.

McDuffy waited for a moment when both Manning and Meadors were distracted, then stood up and pulled his revolver, apparently planning to arrest the two at gunpoint.

The gunfight

This explanatory photo spread ran in the July 3, 1914, issue of the
Portland Morning Oregonian. (Image: Oregonian/OSU Library)

Manning, the gambler, rolled the dice, whipping his pistol around to shoot. This was not a good idea. As it turns out, Deputy McDuffy seems to have been something of a gunfighting ninja. Manning never had a chance.

Both weapons fired at about the same time. Manning’s shot hit McDuffy high in the chest, inflicting a wound that would have been very serious or even fatal if the bullet hadn’t hit a metal pencil case and pack of cards in McDuffy’s breast pocket. McDuffy’s shot went straight through Manning’s heart, and the officer followed it up with a second shot within inches of the first and a third shot that hit the outlaw in the head — all this from an old-school single-action six-shooter firing black-powder cartridges.

McDuffy’s three shots had filled the car with smoke. Manning was dead before he hit the ground, and Meadors couldn’t see well enough to return fire even had he been inclined to do so. So instead, he took advantage of the smokescreen to cover a hasty retreat. He leaped off the train and ran into the bushes, closely followed by Stoner. The two of them got away with just $750 worth of loot.

The getaway

When the two hard-pressed robbers got back to where they had cached their car, they seem to have found a third and final unpleasant surprise waiting for them. Some accounts of this robbery say there was a fourth man who was waiting by the car for them. If so, that fourth man double-crossed them, because the next day the two of them were arrested trudging along the railroad tracks twenty miles from the scene, trying to make it to La Grande on foot. The car was never seen again.

“I am mighty glad to come in and have it all over with,” Meadors told the cops, after he was lodged in the county jail.

“That is exactly the way I feel about it,” Stoner agreed. “This is the first time either of us was ever in any trouble of this kind before in our lives.”

The aftermath

For Stoner, it was the last time. After he was released from prison, he settled down and led a perfectly normal and successful life. He worked hard, bought a farm in Idaho, raised a family and never talked about his previous career, even to his children. After moving back to Oregon, he died in 1974 in Newport at age 91.

Meadors was another story; for him, the train robbery was the beginning of a life of crime punctuated by stretches of hard time. Pardoned out of the joint in 1918, he was back in again the following year after getting caught burgling a house in Missouri. He spent the next 20 years filling up his rap sheet with more burglaries, bootlegging charges and even a manslaughter rap. He changed his name several times, and disappeared from the records in the late 1930s.
        
Deputy McDuffy was hailed as a hero — not just for foiling the robbery, but for saving the lives of everyone on board the train. M.J. Buckley, the general superintendent of the railroad line, told the Morning Oregonian that the air brakes on a stationary train of that weight, on such a steep grade, would only hold for 15 or 20 minutes. So the whole time the robbers were on board, the clock was ticking, and the only people who could do anything about it were locked in the baggage car.

“It would have been impossible to hold a train like that on that grade without losing some air,” Buckley said. “As soon as the air begins to leak the brakes don’t hold long, and had the train ever started, nothing in the world could have stopped it. It would have torn down the hill and at the first curve undoubtedly would have left the rails and plunged over the mountainside.”

(Sources: Schultz, Austin. www.facebook.com/OregonStateArchives, postings of April 10-15, 2013; Portland Morning Oregonian, July 3-6, 1914; Spokane Daily Chronicle, Sept. 22, 1981)